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Immunology. 1998 Aug;94(4):503-12.

A novel immunosuppressant, FTY720, increases the efficiency of a superantigen-induced peripheral T-cell deletion whilst inhibiting negative selection in the thymus.

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  • 1Research Institute for Biological Sciences, Science University of Tokyo, Chiba 278, Japan.


A novel immunosuppressant, FTY720, was generated by chemical modification of ISP-I, an immunosuppressive compound purified from culture filtrates of Isaria sinclairii. FTY720 directly induces apoptotic cell death in lymphocytes, which is believed to be the mechanism by which this drug exerts its immunosuppressive effect. We examined the effect of FTY720 treatment on antigen-induced apoptotic cell death in peripheral T cells and thymocytes. A superantigen, staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB), induces T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) Vbeta-specific apoptotic cell death in mature T cells in vivo. In this well-documented experimental system, FTY720 administration significantly enhanced the efficiency of superantigen-induced T-cell deletion. We also determined that apoptotic cell death with DNA fragmentation induced in T-hybridoma cells after stimulation in vitro with anti-TCR antibodies was enhanced in the presence of non-cytolytic doses of FTY720. In sharp contrast, negative selection of T cells in the thymus, another example of antigen-induced apoptosis, was found to be inhibited by FTY720 treatment. A rescue effect was observed on clonal deletion in the H-Y-specific TCRalpha beta transgenic male thymus. In a chicken egg albumin (OVA)-specific TCRalphabeta transgenic system, OVA-induced apoptotic cell death of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes was also inhibited by FTY720 injection. Thus, FTY720 increased the susceptibility of mature T cells to TCR-mediated apoptosis but decreased that of immature thymocytes. The results in this report suggest that the potent immunosuppressive effect of FTY720 is, in part, a result of the augmentation of effects on antigen-induced apoptosis in mature T cells, and that two distinct apoptotic cell death pathways are operating in mature and immature T cells.

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